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With low or no IT footprint, minimal or zero up-front capital costs, and ubiquitous access to the tools, a cloud-based approach to analytics can be enticing. However, as some find out the hard way, extracting the potential of the cloud is not a “plug-and-play” proposition.

Companies able to see results with cloud analytics have a measured approach that combines organizational capability with the right data-driven philosophy. Aberdeen Group’s recent report demonstrates that cloud users have a commitment to analytics beyond their counterparts taking an on-premise only approach to business intelligence (BI). These characteristics include the following.

Strong support from senior management

Aberdeen’s July 2015 cloud BI report demonstrated that those taking a cloud approach were able to distribute analytical capability to a wide variety of business functions. From finance and operations to sales and marketing, cloud users enjoyed a more pervasive deployment of analytics. This pervasiveness would not be possible without the authority and cloud to sidestep cross-functional red tape, and cloud users are able to garner the executive support needed to make this a reality.

Heightened analytical mindset

BI technology has evolved into many different shapes and sizes, closely matching the needs of a very diverse workforce. However, Best-in-Class usage of analytics has always rested upon factors beyond the speeds and feeds of the technology. Top companies build adoption and engagement, partly by delivering the right tools to the workforce, but also by fostering an environment of analytical skill through the use of training and other talent development programs.

Expanded usage of data

So many “born-in-the-cloud” or mobile applications and data sources are purpose-built to handle a diversity of data. From the traditional structured transactional data, to unstructured data from social channels or rich media, many cloud-based applications are required to handle a wide variety of information. In turn, cloud-based analytical tools, and the people using them, are well-positioned to ingest and utilize this breadth of data to create new and different insights.

According to the research, cloud BI users are more likely to have these capabilities in place:

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These aspects of organizational maturity are instrumental in a company’s ability to leverage analytics properly, make better data-driven decisions, and deliver elevated business performance. These capabilities serve companies well, not just in their ability to exploit the potential of the cloud, but to build and maintain a strong analytical culture.

Look up to the clouds

Cloud and SaaS-based applications were once considered shallow and lightweight in their capabilities. The tools were once looked at as relevant only for smaller companies, short on IT infrastructure, and indifferent to data security.

While some of these perceptions may be true in select cases, the last 5-10 years of innovation and technology evolution have shattered most of the old biases. As more sophisticated, high-octane technologies have moved to a cloud-based infrastructure, more enterprises realize that cloud isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Companies can migrate certain applications to the cloud in a piecemeal fashion, while exploiting the familiarity of customized legacy infrastructure in a hybrid cloud approach.

Nevertheless, using a cloud-only or hybrid analytical environment carries strong potential benefits that can be brought out in a variety of different ways. Top companies are inclined to build executive support for analytical initiatives, create analytical talent in-house, and exploit a breadth of traditional and non-traditional data. These activities help accelerate the analytical process and support tangible business improvements.

For more information, read the full report here: Running Lean Analytics with a Cloud or Hybrid Approach

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